A literary agency’s decision to publish e-editions of ”Lolita,” ”Invisible Man” and other classics and sell them exclusively through Amazon.com received a mixed response from the Authors Guild, which represents thousands of published writers.In an e-mail sent Monday to authors, the Guild defended the Wylie Agency’s right to sell e-books of older works without the publisher’s permission, but also criticized excluding Amazon’s competitors and worried about ”serious potential conflicts of interest” when an agent becomes a publisher.
”The most obvious of these (conflicts) is the possibility of self-dealing to the detriment of the agency’s client, the author,” the Guild’s message said. ”A major agency starting a publishing company is weird, no matter how you look at it.”
Except when you look at it as another indication that publishing is dramatically changing. The change is happening at such a fast pace that even the Guild is having trouble grasping it.
The heft and musty smell of a hardcover book are one step closer to becoming relics in a museum.
Amazon.com, one of the nation’s largest bookstores, said Monday that for the last three months, sales of electronic books for the Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader, outnumbered sales of hardcover books for the first time.
Depending on where you get your news, and how far beyond the tweets and catchy headlines you tend to read, yesterday’s well-timed press release from Amazon (they release their 2Q report on Thursday) either came as a shocker (TIPPING POINT!) or an interesting soft data point in need of further clarification.
From the incredibly practical, consistently informative Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer:
It’s essential for self-publishers to come to grips with the way that discounts are handled in retail publishing. If you plan to publish a book that will be sold within the retail book distribution system you’ll need to understand how discounts work. Even if you plan to sell your books through online retailers, you’ll still need to set a discount.
But before we get into discounts themselves, let’s back up a moment.
The Purpose of Discounts
It would be impractical for manufacturers of products to be the only source for the average person to buy those products. So we have a multi-tiered manufacturing and distribution system. Manufacturers set the price they think the product should sell for, then offer it at a discount to retailers willing to sell to their own universe of buyers.
Manufacturers can make these arrangements with hundreds or thousands of retailers, trading the discount to acquire a means for their customers to easily buy their products.
Most of the people I write about in ESPERANZA FARM are composites of people I’ve met at some point in my life. A few are completely made up to fit a particular story-telling need while others are closer to their real life persona.
Reinaldo, a next door neighbor and confidant of the young protagonist, fits the latter group:
Reinaldo Garsa, who had lived in the United States for many years, was saying that an attack by the United States on Cuba could come any minute. People believed him when he said that the plane that flew low above the fields earlier that afternoon was an American spy plane. Reinaldo should have known, they said, because he had fought as a Sergeant in the American Army during the Korean War.
“Reinaldo” was my real-life neighbor. I remember the content of our frequent conversations, his very strong opinions about the Cuban government and other matters. I could also recall his descriptions of New York from the time in the forties and fifties when he made the city his home. His love of baseball is still fresh in my memory. But because I had not seen him in approximately forty years, his physical features were lost to me. It’s odd how one can remember almost all about a person from one’s past, except their face. That was until very recently, when I discovered the photo that accompanies this update.
Suddenly, “Reinaldo” came back to life and I realized, at the same time, where his love of baseball probably came from: he managed one of the baseball teams that traveled my province, Pinar del Rio, delighting Sunday fans. This was a detail I did not know about the character or about the person.
I’m considering slipping that detail — about him being a manager — into the final revision of the manuscript. It would add depth and context to the character. I also know it would please the person I knew.
“Reinaldo” is the man on the far right. Looking at the photograph, I concluded that he came to the ballpark straight from work. He was in such a hurry to get to the game that he didn’t have time to change. “Let’s get this damn ceremonial first pitch over,” I can imagine him thinking, “let’s play ball.”
Ralph Ellison is most famous for two things: writing the classic Invisible Man and never publishing another novel during his lifetime. The story of his supposed writer’s block has become almost as familiar to many readers as anything he did publish.
Adam Bradley, an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wants to rewrite that story. In Ralph Ellison in Progress (out this month from Yale University Press), he argues that the work Ellison did in the second half of his life reveals even more about the writer’s artistic agenda and ambition than Invisible Man does—and allows us to read that classic work with fresh eyes.
In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.
Publishing falls into the modern world of business, and it’s always benefiting through and from creative original thinkers (one hopes).
The mediocre writer who can sell is usually more successful than the talented writer who cannot. Aside from all other hard truths about publishing, this is the one that many writers find most difficult to accept.
(You can read the first chapter HERE. You can join my “publishing group”, a bunch of friends supporting the publication of the book HERE).
After a lot of careful consideration, I’ve decided to self-publish my novel ESPERANZA FARM. Last week I emailed a literary agent who was reading a partial, letting her know that I was withdrawing the manuscript from consideration. Here’s the reasoning that preceded this decision:
I have nothing against the traditional publishing model, a route which continues to work for most authors and one I tried myself for a while. Even if I did not succeeded at it — in most cases it takes a lot of time and persistence — I received enough feedback from people in the industry to know that my book has a pretty good chance of eventually selling to a commercial publisher, if that was what I wanted to do. So this decision is not born out of rejections, of which I received my fair share, but has been more influenced by things I’ve learned in the process of finding and agent and publisher.
The reason I’ve decided to go at it as an independent publisher has more to do with what I believe is better for my book. And by the possibilities of participating in other aspect of the book world that have always captivated my interests.
The facts are that I also love the whole publishing, marketing, sales, design, publicity, entrepreneurial side of books. I love writing, reading, researching, talking about literature, rewriting and reading industry trade news. I love old books, new books, e-books, even comic books. And I’m most fascinated with the future of the book, especially how it intersects with the new media.
So this is a grand experiment and an exciting learning opportunity as well as a challenge.
One of the advantages of publishing your own material is the control that is possible over every aspect of the project. Where will it be printed, what process will be used and what distribution method. Not to mention the actual design components right down to the typeface. A perfect example of this benefit is the photograph I’ve chosen for the cover. A number of months ago, my daughter sent me a link to the websiteof a photographer whose work she admired. I fell in love with the work of Andrew Moore but was blown away when I came upon this photograph. I knew I had found the cover for my novel. I contacted Mr. Moore directly and soon had an agreement on the licensing terms. (This has changed, since I’ve decided to go in another direction with the cover photograph. I will blog about it soon, just after I’ve notified the interested parties).
This is now done. You can read more about it HERE.